The BBC Documentary series on Obama already has an elegiac feel to it. Compared to the horrors of the Republican Party nomination process, President Obama’s eight years in Office already assume as rosy glow. The series works because of the superb access – look, there’s Hillary Clinton! – behold, it’s Bob Gates! – and while there’s an overall tone of respect from the programme makers, they don’t shy away from the more troublesome aspects of the legacy. Syria is a blot on the conscience of humanity; but did Barack Obama cause this? The inability to tackle inequality in the US; is this Obama’s fault, or more likely, could any President have survived the GOP scorched earth policy that Obama has had to endure from 2008? On a smaller level, a couple of things strike this viewer. The first is how much Barack Obama has aged in the last eight years; a Presidency will not help you look younger. The second is that being President is like chairing a board and having to sift through the opinion of principals. ‘O’ arguably steered the world away from a global depression in 2008/09. His job is one most of us would find impossible to cope with. This series is a fitting testimony to the qualities of the man.
So, so long Ian Duncan Smith. The Quiet Man has raised his voice yet again, and, what exactly? His resignation should not be seen as matter of principle over spending. To say that IDS is on the economic Left of the Tory Party is not to know the Conservatives. They are a party of power that drift between the centre and the right; it is difficult to have respect for any organisation and leader that had Lynton Crosby as one of their main advisors. No, IDS has quit in order to be a martyr for the anti-European cause, laying down a marker for if and when Boris becomes PM. Maybe this long-term dis-loyalist has ambitions for the top job himself? Maybe; but most Conservatives will remember his disastrous time as leader at the turn of the century. When Cameron goes, it could be a bit of a free for all. George Osborne is still well placed but if Brexit is carried and Britain leave the EU, then IDS will be a happy man wherever he ends up. Britain could be sleepwalker into leaving the European Union; Europe will be a very different place if they do.
Multi-Party or Grand Coalition
The aftermath of the Republic of Ireland’s General Election leaves the country celebrating their 1916 commemorations without a permanent government. While Ireland hasn’t had a single party government since the 1970s, it has usually been straightforward enough to form a coalition. This time, the parties are weighing up whether a minority multi-party administration can be formed on a ‘confidence and supply’ basis or if there should be a burying of the hatchet between the two big traditionally Centre parties – Fine Gael and Fianna Fail – to form a comfortable and stable government. Under PRSTV, the Irish electorate is expected to throw up fractured results well into the immediate future. Many commentators are now arguing that only a grand coalition between the two big civil war parties will lead to a government that will last the course. While mainland Europe may be used to month after month of political negotiations, it is not the Irish way. The pressure will really be on in April for the political shadow boxing to stop and for the adults to take over in the negotiations to establish an administration that is effective and one that has a mandate.
Another month, another ISIS atrocity. This time Brussels, tomorrow, the Middle East, Africa, anywhere. That’s why the ISIS campaign of violence is so frightening. Their political objectives are so beyond sane that to even write that phrase makes the stomach churn. These thugs are ruthless killers; they corrupt the young and poison their minds. It is a death cult that seems all too easy to join and all but impossible to escape. The response in Europe will be more security. Better to feel safe than sorry. But ISIS are winning to the extent that the West are having to change their way of life every time there’s a terrorist outrage or a hostage is decapitated. This is not the time for moral equivocating. This feels like an existential struggle. President Obama is right in his objectives on this one; ISIS must be degraded and destroyed. It is a campaign that one fears may take decades. That is the tragedy; it may not take as long as that but the US is not dealing with a rational actor in this situation. The resolve of the West is being severely tested.